Looking at some common causes and effects of air pollution

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Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Long before some organizations began embossing their logos on face masks, and long before it became mandatory for people to wear masks, masks were like a necessary clothing accessory by people living in some cities in countries like Bangladesh, India, and China.

Authorities in some towns and cities in these countries frequently listed air pollution as an enemy, and millions of dwellers in these cities had to protect themselves from the harmful effects of this enemy by wearing masks.

Though the causes vary in different cities, some common themes run across.

Emission of fumes

It doesn’t help that some old vehicles leave blueish-dark fumes trailing them when they drove along the highways. …


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Photo by Vivint Solar on Unsplash

Now more than ever, the need to switch from fossil fuel usage to renewables has become imperative. The benefits to the environment are well documented. Beyond that, in some instances, there are tremendous cost savings in the medium to long term. But before making any investment, here are five key points to consider;

What structures surround yours?

First things first. If you decide to install panels to collect sunshine, find out how much solar energy your site receives. Find out if the site is in the sun’s direct path. How long does your site receive sunshine in a day? Are there other tall(er) buildings or trees nearby that could block direct access to the sun and cast a shade over your building? What are the zoning regulations where your site is located, regarding future developments? …


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Photo by Bui Hoang Lien on Unsplash

Picture a block of contemporary high-rise apartments with lush green landscaping of lawns and palm trees, kids riding bikes around. Then a major street. And right across the street, poorly built temporary structures with no drainage, wastewater discharged on to the streets. This is the reality in many cities. Sometimes these different classes of housing units are not sited so close to each other. But almost every city has the usual gamut of housing types ranging from slums and very low-quality housing to decent middle-class housing, luxury, high-rise apartments and gated estate communities.

Slums

Severally referred to as informal housing, they develop as a result of several factors, none bigger than uncontrolled urbanization. The insatiable appeal of urban areas to rural dwellers is often the root of this problem. As more and more people move into cities, the harsh realities of inadequate housing begin to bite. Sometimes the rent is beyond their financial reach. They are forced to put up in temporary structures. Facilities like potable water, electricity, and drainage facilities are not available. There are high levels of congestion, crime rates and violence are usually high. …


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Image by Iwona Castiello D’Antonio on Unsplash.com

Presently, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. And by 2050, conservative estimates have it that two-thirds of all humanity — 6.5 billion people — will be urban. To perform essential functions like working, healthcare delivery, shopping, schooling and travelling, some form of transport is relied on.

General prosperity and the rise in income levels have meant that motorized transport has become the commonest mode of transport in our cities. With it comes traffic congestion. In a 2000 study, the average speed of cars in some cities was estimated to be around 10mph (16kmph).

Closely related to congestion are noise and air pollution. Dangerous air pollution levels in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Beijing are all too familiar. Though not all of it is caused by emissions from vehicles, it is thought that vehicles are a big part of the problem. And that’s making no mention of the effects of accidents resulting from the use of vehicles and the lack of physical exercise among some vehicle owners. …


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For centuries, cities have always attracted a lot of people primarily for commercial reasons. By their strategic locations, some cities have become key cogs in trade and continue to attract development. Incidentally, cities generate about 80 per cent of the global GDP. It is estimated that in the coming decades, 90 per cent of urban expansion will be in the developing world. For reasons explained below, sustainability should be front and centre in planning for this expansion.

The threat of climate change

One of the biggest threats to the comfort of life on the planet is climate change. Rising sea levels, rising temperatures and the unpredictability in rainfall patterns are just a few effects. The United Nations estimates that cities occupy about 3 per cent of the Earth’s land but account for between 60 to 80 per cent of energy consumption and at least 70 per cent of carbon emissions. Through our activities like industrialization, construction, and transport, we emit a lot of greenhouse gases. …


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In a recent conversation with a friend, he told me how he dreads weekday mornings, especially Mondays. Crawling through traffic in his daily commute to and from work gives him a splitting headache sometimes. But how can we tackle this problem that seems a constant thread in almost every city?

Calls for the siting of workplaces and other commercial land uses close to homes, to limit these commuting times have been gaining some traction. Even in some cities like Shanghai, there are multi-use structures; retail shops, offices, and housing units on different floors in the same building. If this is done properly, there are tremendous benefits. Shorter commute times, leading to more peak hours on the job and (hopefully) higher productivity. On the other hand, if improperly managed, there could be serious consequences. …


Five everyday actions to fight climate change

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Unless you live in a cave (which you don’t, or you wouldn’t be reading this) you’ve likely been inundated with news on climate change. Cutting to the chase, here are five everyday actions we can take as individuals to help fight climate change;

1. Conserve electricity:

Unless your electricity is sourced from clean energy (solar, wind, hydro, nuclear), generating power for your use depends on burning fossil fuels. The more power we use, the more power that ought to be generated. Think of the emissions at the source of power production. If every household uses less power, less fuel would be required to run the power plants, leading to less CO2 emissions. …


A primer on the causes and effects of climate change

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

As an eponym, climate change describes itself as changes in the general climatic patterns. Due in large parts to human activities, the earth has seen a gradual rise in temperature, a distortion of rainfall patterns and rising sea levels. These changes have been more adverse than positive and are leaving in their wake very terrible effects.

What causes climate change?

One of the biggest culprits of climate change is the increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. Ordinarily, gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and even water vapor are, say, byproducts of human activities. …


Housing as a tool for building more sustainable cities

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Image by brenoassis on unsplash

The UNDP estimates that “by 2050, 6.5 billion people will be urban.” This means about two-thirds of all humanity will live in cities. All of these urban dwellers will need housing. As a result of inefficient housing policies by governments, there are very high housing deficits in most cities in developing countries. At the current rate of urbanization in most cities, informal residential housing becomes the default approach to housing delivery.

Informal housing is defined by several authors as housing without the services of proper planning, decent drainage and sanitary facilities. Usually, these houses were not subjected to any structural scrutiny by planning officials and likely do not meet planning requirements. They are usually constructed and/or owned by people who cannot afford the services of qualified building professionals. …


Breaking down SDG 11

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Photo by: Boban Simonovski on Unsplash

“What is a sustainable city?” A friend recently asked me.

“Great question”, I muttered. I then took a few seconds to process an appropriate answer to his question, all the while wondering how long my speech should take. I knew I had better dumb down my explanation, since there was the potential to further muddy the waters (excuse the pun on SDG 6.)

“Looking at the number of people moving into our cities, there is so much pressure on the available facilities to support us all. Housing facilities are not adequate, leading people to put up under bridges, in kiosks, and in slums. Waste management is a challenge, the vehicular traffic situation is ever-worsening, and water supply to some areas is getting less reliable. …

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